Papua New Guinea researchers announce major new clinical trial to improve maternal and newborn health

News | Published on 10 Sep 2015

The Kirby Institute at UNSW Australia will collaborate with the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) and other national and international institutes to conduct a world-first study in maternal and newborn health in PNG.

Led by Dr Andrew Vallely jointly appointed to the PNGIMR and the Kirby Institute, and Dr William Pomat from PNGIMR, the study will investigate whether same-day, clinic-based testing and treatment of sexually transmitted infections can improve pregnancy outcomes for women in PNG.

As in many low-income countries curable sexually transmitted and genital infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea are very common among pregnant women in PNG, but if left untreated can lead to serious problems during pregnancy.

“These infections have been difficult to diagnose and treat because the majority of women with an infection do not have any symptoms,” said Dr Vallely. “But new, highly-accurate and easy-to-use technologies for STI testing have recently become available. These technologies will for the first time allow us to find out whether the systematic screening and treatment of pregnant women for these curable genital infections can make a real impact on pregnancy outcomes in high-burden countries such as PNG. This is what our trial is designed to find out,” says Dr Vallely.

The study is supported by a major new research award worth A$6.7 million, funded under the Joint Global Health Trials initiative, established by the UK Department for International Development, the Medical Research Council UK and the Wellcome Trust.

The award was announced at the recent 51st Annual Symposium of the PNG Medical Society.

“This prestigious international award will place PNG researchers at the forefront of global research on infectious diseases and maternal health,” said Professor Peter Siba, Director of the PNGIMR, and a senior trial investigator.

The Kirby Institute, located in Sydney, has a long and successful history of research collaboration with the PNGIMR.

“This award recognises the global importance of this health issue, and years of outstanding work by the PNG Institute of Medical Research,” say epidemiologist Professor John Kaldor from the Kirby Institute, one of the lead investigators on the trial. “We look forward to working with our colleagues at the PNGIMR and other institutes in Australia and internationally to find a solution that will benefit the health of many people around world.”

Background Information

  • The Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) has been awarded funding under the UK-based Joint Global Health Trials initiative, established by the UK Department for International Development, Medical Research Council UK and the Wellcome Trust to support cutting edge research on the most important health priorities facing low- and middle-income countries.
  • The trial will be led by Dr Andrew Vallely (Professorial Research Fellow) and Dr William Pomat (Deputy Director, Science) at the PNGIMR, and involves over 20 senior researchers and reproductive health experts based in PNG, Australia and in Europe, including Dr Grace Kariwiga (Alotau Provincial Hospital), Prof Glen Mola (University of PNG / Port Moresby General Hospital), and Prof Peter Siba (PNGIMR).
  • Collaborating international institutes include: the Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia (Prof John Kaldor, A/Prof Rebecca Guy; A/Prof Handan Wand; Lisa Vallely); University of Technology, Sydney (Prof Caroline Homer); the Burnet Institute (A/Prof Stanley Luchters, Dr Chris Morgan); Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne (Prof Suzanne Garland, A/Prof Sepehr Tabrizi); University of Queensland (A/Prof David Whiley); University of Melbourne (Prof Stephen Rogerson); London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Prof Rosanna Peeling, A/Prof Virginia Wiseman); and University of Bern (Prof Nicola Low). 

Media requests:
Lucienne Bamford

Communications Officer
The Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia
+61 (02) 9385 0550